The troubling story of Cornelius John
The Cornelius John story continues to amaze me as it does other concerned Vincentians. The relative silence of the police and the failure to arrest or charge anyone is bewildering.
Here is a situation where a man was shot, and the persons involved known. Why after more than 70 days has there been this reluctance by the police to inform the public about the state of the matter? This obviously leads to the prevalence of rumours and to the belief that attempts are being made to subvert justice. Is it true that a witness (or witnesses) have been asked to sign a false statement/s? This, of course, smacks of corruption, but even if one dismisses this as being based on rumours, the only other conclusion that can be drawn points to incompetence at its highest level. We were, moreover, told by the lawyer representing Mr John, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, that the police had recently returned to John’s residence and had once again taken the same measurements they had taken previously. Even more troubling was that they had apparently asked him the same questions they had previously asked.
One of the other allegations being made is that Mr John had a cutlass and had first attacked the trio that came into his yard. This makes absolutely no sense, and I have attributed to the rumour mill, but given what has been going on so far, I am not prepared to dismiss this. Has a cutlass been found? We were told that an auxiliary- police officer who had witnessed the shooting went to Mr John shortly after the incident and had found no weapon. Mr John is among other things, a farmer, so having a cutlass was nothing out of the ordinary, but no cutlass was found. Furthermore, he did not expect a visit from the trio, and therefore had no knowledge of the purpose of their visit. From the evidence given by Mr John, he was the one who first called to them to find out the purpose of their visit. If he was sitting as he stated, when they came to his house and remained so until he was kicked off his seat and then shot, how was he able to attack them?
Since the police have been largely silent, what one is left with is speculation and suspicions. Regardless of how one looks at all of this, it clearly stinks. As I said in an earlier column, our country is rotting from head to tail. What other conclusion can one draw? What we have heard since news of the incident broke two weeks after it had happened, was that an investigation was ongoing. We got the impression from the Prime Minister that the investigation was complete, but realised that even after hearing that, the police were still taking measurements at John’s residence. Had this not been so sad, looking at it from the point of view of Mr John who is not only damaged but unable to continue his work in the way he was accustomed to, one would think this was sheer comedy. But comedy it is not! There is too much at stake; issues of transparency, accountability, and an undermining of the manner in which such matters would normally be handled.
Is there a belief that this matter will soon be forgotten? Anyone who thinks so has got to be dreaming. This issue has shaken up the country in a way that nothing else has done in recent times. There is for me a light at the end of the tunnel. I am heartened by the awakening of many of our young people who are now prepared to speak up. It is good to see the National Council of Women and the Public Service Union’s stating that the matter is not a personal one between Cornelius John and the police/state, but one that concerns all of us once we bear in mind that today it might be Mr John, but tomorrow it might be any of us!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian